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11 Mar 2011

How to spot Mr Right in a gay bathhouse

Marcel Wiel, author of Find Love in a Gay Bathhouse, says contrary to popular belief one can meet quality husband material as the bathhouse is a good place to observe men at 'play', and provides tips on how to spot Mr Right in a pool of sexual contacts and to save oneself 'a lot of time and energy' by weeding out the wrong guys.

The following is an excerpt from Find Love in a Gay Bathhouse – An Eight Step Guide to Meeting Mr Right in a Gay Bathhouse and then Making the Relationship Work – by Marcel Wiel. Read Fridae's interview with Marcel Wiel here. The following is reprinted with permission from the author.

Step 1: Making the statistics work for you

A pool of opportunities

Author Marcel Wiel

As anyone who uses bathhouses knows, they see a lot of human traffic - all the more so for one in large cities.The bathhouse where I met my Mr Right is typical of such a venue, located near a mainline station, with hundreds of lockers, more than 30 cubicles, lots of TV screens showing porn, two steam rooms, two dry-heat saunas, darkrooms, a jacuzzi and a café-sitting area.

It attracts a big range of people including local regulars, visiting or passing out-of-towners, lots ofoccasional users, with age ranges from late teens to 60s and older, most being in their 30s and 40s. Over the years, I’ve met business execs, students, teachers, cab drivers, lawyers, doctors, barmen, waiters, off-duty prostitutes and no doubt, without knowing it, off-duty policemen.

The message is clear: to maximise your chances of meeting your Mr Right, you need to go somewhere that gets busy. 

If you have a choice, avoid places which have an unreliable turnout or one where there is a poor turnover of customers. It’s a very inefficient way of trying to find a Mr Right because you’re dealing with a much smaller pool of possible contacts. 

The statistics of bathhouses

Imagine a typical big-city bathhouse, with around 200 lockers open midday-midnight, with peak usage between 5pm and 11pm. Taking into account that it’ll rarely reach full capacity with people queuing outside, being there during the busiest period means there’ll be at least 150 men in the different bathhouse areas. And this assumes that there isn’t any customer turnover in that period, which often there is.

Now imagine each of these people having two or three encounters on average during their visit. That’s 300-450 sexual contacts - a nightmare for public health officials trying to control the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but a real blessing to someone who knows about safer sex and wants to meet someone special in a fun way.

It’s a bit like being given the chance to taste lots of different cakes before committing to one as a favourite.

Personal experience

Apart from 1992-95, when I was in a monogamous relationship, between 1983 and 2005 I went to bathhouses on average 20 times a year, each visit featuring maybe three sexual contacts. Thus, the total tally of all my bathhouse sexual encounters over the years comes to:

(22-3) x 20 x3 = 1,140 contacts over 19 years.

From this quite huge figure, I met one Mr Almost Right and one Mr Right, which would indicate a pretty poor success rate. 

But the fact is until my late 30s, I wasn’t interested in meeting Mr Right: I was only interested in meeting Mr Right Now. And that’s exactly who crossed my path – on average 60 times a year.

So in reality I was very successful at meeting sexy men for one-off fun with a near 100% success rate for each and every bathhouse visit.

Once I decided I wanted a relationship and changed my focus on what I was looking for, I now see I actually met quite a few potential Mr Rights. Until I met the right one for me, unsurprisingly, things just didn’t work out. But thanks to my technique at making high-quality contacts, I got lots of experience, over many years, at discovering what I really wanted - and didn’t want - in a partner, so that when I did eventually meet him, he might as well have had a sign stuck to his head, reading ‘I’m the one’. 

So the process is in fact quite simple:

1. Fish in crowded waters
2. Enjoy your catch
3. Commit if he ticks your boxes, or go back to step 1 if your catch doesn’t inspire you
4. Repeat steps 1-3 if things didn’t work out until they do.

It’s very important in all this to remember that for the vast majority of us success is about practice, learning from sometimes painful mistakes, and persistence.

Giving up is not an option!

When to go

It might seem obvious but turning up an hour before closing time is probably a bad strategy for meeting someone. Most people would’ve had their fill, or they’ll be leaving just as you arrive, and the pick of the crop is probably long gone. If possible, get to know the ebb and flow of customer traffic of your chosen bathhouse.

Otherwise you can fall back on the rule of thumb that the best times to go are from late afternoon to 10pm weekdays after people finish work; on Fridays, customers tend to leave later because many won’t be working over the weekend; Saturdays, they probably arrive earlier and stay longer; and the same on Sundays, except that many will leave earlier because of work on Monday. It’s not foolproof, but it’s worked for me.

For 24-hour or all-night bathhouses, peak times are between 9pm and 4am. Here, the type of customer profile will change depending on the time. Also, there’ll often be a mini-rush of people when nightclubs and bars shut.

Different bathhouse areas

Different parts of a typical bathhouse provide different chances of making a contact:

The cloakroom
This might seem a good place to start and, while you’re undressing, someone interesting might catch your fancy. But in truth whoever you see here is just the tip of the iceberg. My advice is, move on to the heart of the action and don’t linger.

The shower area
This space is much more erotic. People are naked, soaping themselves down. On the plus side, it’s easy to see if you turn someone on and you may see other people who arrived at the same time as you. Also, if you’re having a shower after you’ve had sex and cum, your penis can look a bit fuller and more impressive - good for attracting more action later. On the minus side, that attractive man showering might be washing himself down after a tryst of his own and, there and then, may not be immediately physically able or willing to respond. Plus, you’ll only see a handful of men here - another tip of the iceberg situation, but you never know.

The bar/lounge/TV room
In this space, you can just as easily find men who just want to quench their thirst after a sexual encounter or a spell in the sauna as other who fancy chatting. This is also where someone who wants more than a quickie would be attracted to and where you’d strike up a conversation easily.

The dry heat sauna
It gets hot here - up to 80C (176F). People can’t normally bear it for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. You sweat hard and men are sitting next to each other on benches. Eyes notice, hands move around a bit, legs flop apart suggestively, thighs touch. A good place to attract and make first contact, but a bad place to stay for too long - unless you’re a camel. 

The steam room
This is a really easy place to make contact and have sex in. It’s not as hot as the sauna and so is a much more bearable place to spend longer periods. It’s also often bigger so you can walk around rather than just sit. Plus, there’s the erotic allure of the curtain of misty steam and the dim lighting. What does the face of that handsome shape coming towards me look like? What kind of kisser is he? How well hung is he? But the real clincher is that because the heat is wet, towels are left on hooks by the door and, as anyone will tell you, it’s not hard to guess what someone wants when his cock is pointing at you. It’s all very easy, and totally nonverbal, with people coming in and out more or less constantly.

The cubicles and surrounding corridors
Head here for a more intimate time, where privacy is possible because you can shut the cubicle door. Some of the men are inside with door open waiting to be chosen, with others walking around and checking them out. Often the layout is circular. There are probably more men here than in the steam room but people are pickier because they can see more. This can be used to your advantage, so be bold. At peak times it’s not unusual for all the cubicles to be occupied. 

The darkroom
A darkroom is exactly what the name implies, although there’s often a teeny bit of light. It’s pot luck who you’ll end up with, but sex is virtually guaranteed. To any naysayer I point out that a very good friend of mine met his partner of 28 years in a darkroom. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because gay men meet other gay men where gay men go, and lots of them are looking for partners.

Childish and childlike behaviours
One way to look at bathhouses is to see them as somewhere you can meet ‘gay men at play’. Of course they’re about sex, but in the most general sense of the word, they’re also about ‘play’. 

Playing speaks to the part of us that’s a child. It’s the part that can be ‘childlike’ - enthusiastic, giving and full of energy - and most importantly enjoys having fun. But it’s also the part of us that can be ‘childish’ - impatient, reckless, and greedy.

Naturally, gay men at play in bathhouses often display these two types of behaviour, and will switch between the two. If anything, feeling childlike makes the switch to acting childishly even easier. So if you can recognise the signs of these behaviours, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy.

Here’s why:

• It will help you not to respond childishly to childish behaviour:

Example 1: You enthusiastically approach an attractive man with a wide, open smile only to be rebuffed (in the buff). You naturally feel rejected and become sulky. This is exactly the wrong response to rejection in a bathhouse. We all like to be liked, but people don’t go to these places to be liked, they go there to have sex. So if you keep getting rejected, you need to look at your technique, not sulk hoping someone will take pity on you.

Example 2: You’re having a wild old time with a handsome man and you’re both really turned on. The sex is moving towards penetration but he clearly hasn’t got a condom on as he lies on your back, kissing your neck and rubbing himself against you. He starts to insert himself into you and you let him carry on because you think to yourself one of two things:


He must be HIV-negative, like me. No-one would be so thoughtless as to have unprotected sex without a condom if they were HIV-positive.


He must be HIV-positive, like me. No-one would be so stupid as to have unprotected sex in a bathhouse with a complete stranger if they were HIV-negative.

In fact, studies of sexual behaviour of gay men in bathhouses have shown that the HIV-positive ones tend to assume that many of the other customers will be HIV-positive like them - and then not use condoms, while the HIV-negative and untested ones in the same place will often assume most of same people will be HIV-negative like them - and then not use condoms.

The only way to make sure that you don’t risk HIV infection when you have sex in bathhouses is to always use a condom.

• It will help you to recognise people who behave well:

Example 1: You’re back in a cubicle with the same sexy man who’s kissing your back and rubbing himself against your butt, so you know that penetration is the next thing that’s going to happen. He stops and puts a condom on, or if the roles are reversed, he gives you one. Bingo! Here’s an intelligent person who knows that when you have sex with strangers in bathhouses you should always use condoms, even if it breaks the mood or makes things a bit awkward for a few moments. Better that than pass on or catch an STI. Chances are this person is equally responsible in other areas of their lives.

Example 2: You have a great time with a lovely man and, apart from the sex, you also have some nice conversation. He gets your contact details and says he’ll call you. He calls you. This is a sign of good behaviour. What tends to happen is you meet someone, you have a great time together, they say they’ll call, but don’t. Often in life, people do not honour their commitments, so if you meet someone who seems to do so, they’re really worth getting to know. And if a friendship rather than a relationship develops, at least you’ll know he won’t be late for arrangements.

Example 3: You start getting it on with a man who turns you on. The urge for sex seems to have worn off and he says he wants to take a shower and fancies a coffee. He offers to buy you a drink. Most people in bathhouses are only interested in their next trick. So when someone demonstrates interest in you beyond your body, see this as a good sign. It means the communication between the two of you has a chance of moving to another level.

Also, being myself a total sucker for good manners - hospitality to the stranger in this case - I’d find this situation quite promising.

But don’t get too excited about this scenario. A coffee is just a coffee; he’s not asking you to sign up to a 25-year joint mortgage. That said, who knows where a fifteen-minute chat with a well-mannered stranger might lead?

For me, I was always looking for someone who could communicate like an adult and be playful like a child at the same time.

What about you? 

Past sexual encounters

Thinking of highly enjoyable encounters you’ve had in the past, name three things…

a) … that you liked about the setting:

b) … that the men had in common:

c) … that you liked about the sex you had:

Doing what comes naturally

The straight world often pooh-poohs places like bathhouses. It’s not natural, they say. What a load of rubbish! It’s not only natural but also a site of normal human behaviour for gay men.

As human beings, it’s in our very genetic makeup to seek attachments and to want to bond. Without attachments and bonding with people who are similar to ourselves, we would go mad. And if babies don’t feel this sense of attachment more or less constantly, they cry louder than road-digging equipment. Our anxiety around being alone is rooted in an infant’s very real fear of abandonment and we carry this around with us like an invisible passport all our lives. 

Social networks, clubs and association, team sports, families - all these groups speak to our need to form attachments and bond with similar people. Few people would disagree with the idea that a life without love is indeed a sad and empty life. Attachments and bonding give our life meaning and they are very worthy and healthy goals. Anyone who says otherwise is at best mistaken and at worst cruel.

The straight world also criticises gay men for being promiscuous. Wrong again. The innate drive to ensure that our genes will be passed on to future generations is at a basic level the driver of all sexual behaviour. It doesn’t matter if someone’s gay and may never have children. These basic building blocks of what it is to be human are within us all and men, who produce millions of sperm a day (as opposed to women who produce only one ovum a month), are by nature prone to the machinegun approach to ensuring their long-term genetic survival. No wonder therefore that gay men have lots of sex with each other; they are behaving like men. Indeed, for men, the word ‘slag’ isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. 

So rather than taking on all the negative bullshit the straight world throws at us gay men, my advice is to glory in the biology of our sexuality and our gender - a powerful expression of which is gay sex.

Key points on marking the statistics work for you

• Go at busy times
• Know your Mr Right is within a pool of Mr Right Nows
• Steam rooms are great for making first contact
• Always use condoms
• Keep your eyes open for good behaviour
• Be bold and persistent

 Find Love in a Gay Bathhouse is available in print and ebook format here.

Reader's Comments

1. 2011-03-11 23:49  
I think I'd rather find him in an art gallery, library, concert or supermarket. Or maybe just walking down the street one day. But then, maybe I'm just an idealist.
2. 2011-03-12 00:05  
hmm interesting analysis of the going-ons in a sauna lolz
3. 2011-03-12 02:15  
Everywhere is possible to meet Mr. Right...even from Churches to Bathhouses!

Very interesting article nonetheless.

4. 2011-03-12 03:25  
Good article...maybe a bit more on cross cultural aspects would be good. Such as herbal saunas in Laos..............everything up front and direct. Thailand.........the gaming and the snobbery...........did I say that? China............oh China........very different with the scrub downs and walking around in those huge clubs that have 10 rooms with 1000 people....................but nice column.

One thing I did not see mentioned is the high risk of disease contact.
5. 2011-03-12 06:23  
Great article, well written; and did meet a few Mr. Almost Right in local bath-house . My own Mr. Right successes: met my first serious bf of 8 years at university rest-room's glory hole; met many bfs after that until I met love-of-my-life bf of 6 years in Metropolitan (gay) Community Church; then a few more uncommitted bfs, and now a great local guy in Fridae. I have learnt to be open to meeting a Mr Right from any source. But I have to say, in my experience, the gay bars are the ABSOLUTE WORST place to meet any man.
6. 2011-03-12 09:30  
I met mine on the once popular Friendster. We chatted for 2 years before we met for the first time for McDonald's and watched Shrek 3. Here we are in our fourth year of relationship, still going well. I think social-networking sites are still the best. I just think that chances are very slim if you're expecting to meet your mate on the street, library or the supermarket.
7. 2011-03-12 10:51  
I am sure there are many places to meet your Mr Right. It all boils down to opportunities , fate , luck , chemistry and so forth.

Good luck to everyone out there looking for his Mr Right.
8. 2011-03-12 12:51  
We all need love. Where to find it does not matter...the main point is it is the one...good luck to myself and all of u guys!
9. 2011-03-12 18:06  
I've been doing the saunas in 4 different continents for the past 20 years. Not looking for Mr. Right but looking for Mr. Right now. Turned out i has some of the nicest memories of my time in Europe, USA, Oz and Asia. But we all gotta be realistic while at it and you have to have a damn good self-esteem. Otherwise, this is a sure recipe for a one-way ticket to Heartbreak hotel.
10. 2011-03-12 21:49  
the text's interesting but dated. most young guys these days don't visit saunas but rely on the internet and mobile phones apps (grindr anyone?).
11. 2011-03-13 01:58  
Didn't know there is Mr.right in bathhouse also...lol
12. 2011-03-13 03:23  
anyone know which sauna is best for gwms to meet younger local guys?
13. 2011-03-13 09:38  
i cant believe one could write this topic for a book. = =
Comment #14 was deleted by its author on 2011-03-13 17:49
15. 2011-03-13 17:49  
The main point is that we shouldn't stereotype: be too narrow-minded by forming parochial views on anyone based on where they go or what they do, and on places like gay saunas, gay clubs or even circuit parties.

Many gays do not visit certain places (saunas or even gay clubs) or talk to certain groups of people (e.g. drags) because they presume that those who go to such places must be indecent, oversexed, immature or imprudent. They are probably right that more of such people are to be found in such places than in places like churches and yoga classes. But it doesn't mean that all people who visit saunas, circuit parties and gay clubs must fall into this category.

The best way to find your Mr Right is to not have any agenda when you visit a place or befriend anyone. Unload your mind with motives, and you should find it easier to understand your new friends and be understood by them.
16. 2011-03-14 02:55  
it's funny yet interesting. i could think it's ok if i find someone at the bar, but at sauna? hmmm, no idea at all, hahaha...

in practical, i won't ever looking for Mr. right at the bathhouse, but if it just happened there, it would be delightful, hahaha...
Comment #17 was deleted by its author on 2011-03-15 14:26
18. 2011-03-14 19:55  
hmm, cool,i will think about it.
19. 2011-03-15 11:03  
Next could be finding Mr Right in the sewers....
oh ya lurve happens anywhere lol
20. 2011-03-15 11:40  
Well... I met my man (of almost 16 years now) in the showers of my regular (straight) gym, so there are many places other than saunas/bath houses to meet the man of your dreams.
21. 2011-03-15 16:56  
nice article.... i never attach before, but i went to the bathhouse, met some's "Almost Mr.Right" there.....
22. 2011-03-16 05:31  
I've never really liked bath houses, I have always found them kind of sleazy and never was a guy for anonymous hookups, I prefer to at least know the guy a little and I have to like him on some level.

BUT, you can meet someone anywhere, a bar, online, I don't believe there is any one place that is better than another. Even a guy you meet at a fundraiser might just drag you through hell as much as a guy at a bar.
23. 2011-03-16 08:38  
Bath houses are the tackist, most germ filled, places to be. I would not want to go there or expect to meet any Mister Right in such places. There are plenty of nicer places out there to meet a guy. This article is stupid, rather sleazy and useless.
24. 2011-03-17 01:05  
French as so delightfully honest and straightforward about sex. No hang ups. Hence, they can do as described in the article. While in most other places in western world, there is such overwhelming hang ups about sex in general and baths in particular that this would never work. But if in a culture where baths are used by wide variety of men who dont have "issues" about it, why not? Like grinder/manhunt online liars are going to find Mr Right? Joke. At least bathhouse is REAL WORLD, face2face, not digital airbrushed (from 10 years ago) fantasy of grinder/manhunt and the rest of online cruise sites
25. 2011-03-17 05:56  
very interesting article here.

although i've never bee to a bathhouse before, if i do get the chance to ever go to one, i think i won't be as intimidated as i've thought that i would be. i've learned a lot of things that will help me navigate in there. also i think i might go with a friend, if i ever do go. i'm kinda on the shy side of things. for the most part.
26. 2011-03-20 20:31  
bath houses are quite nice to meet people and also have fun...

there are guys of all ages from younger to older, very interesting place

most important, always be safe and use condoms
27. 2011-03-20 23:29  
Great articles to share with all.After all, its up to individuals how you want it to be played. Life is short.Be safe and enjoy all the experience that comes with it.
28. 2011-04-10 19:46  
Peurile article. Not that its nonsense, just that theres nothing interesting or insightful. The author suggests that a person using a condom as one who 'behaves well' and 'intelligent'. I can vouch for many condom users being neither.
Dont get me wrong; I enjoy saunas and did in fact meet a Mr Right at one. I also started a couple of really good long-lasting frienships at a sauna. One doesn't need a shallow book such as this to brief you on sauna behaviour. Just use your own common sense, follow your intuition and most times, you will enjoy yourself and forgive the others' bad behaviour and / or lack of intelligence. Heck, Im sure I misbehaved on occasion or sounded like a complete dolt at other times.
29. 2019-09-22 15:05
I think u can find people for everything, everywhere how long both are into...
I find some guys with same interests to porn and browser game. A was seeing porns at a "xtubehub..." everyone knows, and I clicked in a propaganda from men(dot)com porn label for a "free" porn game. The game is really free and don't ask phone or bank cards (they ask if u want buy coins to go faster, but is not needed, I never did and all work perfect) At the game we simulate to be a porn producer with funny and sexy avatars from real porn stars from the famous gay erotic label MEN.
There u play against/with other guys in this gay game, and go in contact with them. I had already be with 3 of then...
Between a blowjob challenge to another, it come easy to smalltalk and the idea to play at real life too. ;)

With my invite link u get 100 gold coins free.
Tip: Don't use it at beginning , it is more useful after 2-3 weeks playing ;)


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